The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: March 2, 2001

UI Writers Workshop poet kicks off creative writing project in West Liberty

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Matt Miller, a University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop poet, presented a creative writing/poetry workshop Monday, Feb. 19, and Bret Johnston, a Writers’ Workshop fiction writer, presented a fiction workshop Thursday, March 1, at West Liberty High School, launching the school’s participation in "Cultivating Creative Writing: An Iowa Tradition" a UI Arts Share project involving Iowa Poet Laureate Marvin Bell and prominent fiction writer Chris Offutt.

The workshop begins a series of activities designed to raise awareness about one of the State of Iowa’s cultural gems, creative writing, and its impact on 20th-century American Literature. The project asks students to explore Iowa’s unique artistic contributions and opportunities.

The UI Writers’ Workshop is the world’s oldest and most influential creative writing degree program, which has helped the UI and Iowa City gain an international reputation as a Mecca for writers and has made the name "Iowa" synonymous with writing around the world.

The educational component of the current project will take place in seven high schools in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and West Liberty and will be completed by June 30.

In preparation for the project, students will read books by graduates and faculty of the Writers’ Workshop, which will introduce its history and a variety of its distinguished writers. The literature includes: Frank Conroy’s "Stop Time," Chris Offutt’s "Kentucky Straight," Marvin Bell’s "Poetry of a Midsummer’s Night," Tracy Kidder’s "Among Schoolchildren," and Robert Dana’s "A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop."

In the second phase students will participate in a long-term residency with a current Writers’ Workshop student. During the residencies students will be asked to work through revisions and rough drafts of poetry and fiction, and to participate in the presentation of the completed product.

The final component includes a lecture/reading by Marvin Bell and Chris Offutt.

Matt Miller will continue his residency at West Liberty High School with visits scheduled on March 9 and March 20.

In his second year as an Arts Share artist, Miller has conducted many workshops with students of all ages. He has worked extensively with Pulitzer Prize winners Jorie Graham and John Ashbery, and his poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner and Poetry Northwest.

Bret Johnston will continue his residency at West Liberty High School with visits scheduled on March 2 and March 8.

In his first year as an Arts Share artist, Johnston has conducted workshops and readings for high school students. He holds a master’s degree in fiction writing from Miami University. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in magazines including Glamour, Mid-American Review, Shenandoah and the Crescent Review. His short stories have been anthologized in "Scribner’s Best of the Fiction Workshops 1999" and "Patterns of Exposition."

"Cultivating Creative Writing -- an Iowa Tradition," was made possible by a grant from Iowa Arts Council Access to the Arts. Funds provided by the Alliant Energy Foundation will supplement the Iowa Arts Council Grant.

To find out more about the upcoming events of the project, contact Diane Kenney Handler at the Arts Share office (319) 335-1618.

The UI Arts Share program provides artistic resources from the Iowa Center for the Arts to schools and community organizations. The 2000-2001 Arts Share roster includes more than 70 faculty and graduate students in music, theater, dance, the visual arts and creative writing.

For more information about the Arts Share program, call director Diane Kenney Handler at (319) 335-1618 or e-mail

A free Arts Share program guide including artist roster is available at the Arts Share office, 2077 Voxman Music Building, the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.

For UI arts information, visit this new address--- ---on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact